According to the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), acupuncture, the procedure of inserting and manipulating needles into various points on the body to relieve pain or for therapeutic purposes has not proved to be beneficial in the treatment of recovering stroke victims.

Dr. Edzard Ernst, Peninsula Medical School, Exeter, England and coauthors reviewed trials that have been published in English and Asian journals to determine if that, even though acupuncture is often used to supplement traditional stroke rehabilitation, is it clinically effective.

Ten studies were reviewed, looking at 711 patients who had strokes and were taking measures to treat post incident symptoms.

Ernst states:

Few randomized, sham-controlled trials have tested the effectiveness of acupuncture during stroke rehabilitation. The majority of the existing studies do not suggest that acupuncture is effective. The evidence from rigorous studies testing the effectiveness of acupuncture during stroke rehabilitation is negative.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is based on a pre-scientific paradigm of medicine that developed over several thousand years and involves concepts that have no counterpart within contemporary medicine, the authors wrote.

Acupuncture originates from China and has been practiced there for thousands of years. Although there are records of acupuncture being used hundreds of years ago in Europe, it was during the second half of the twentieth century it began to spread rapidly in Western Europe, the United States and Canada. Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles through the patient’s skin at specific points on the body – the needles are inserted to various depths. We are not sure how acupuncture works scientifically. However, we do know that it does have some therapeutic benefits, including pain relief and alleviation from nausea caused by chemotherapy.

According to traditional Chinese medical theory, acupuncture points are located on meridians through which gi vital energy runs. There is no histological, anatomical or scientific proof that these meridians or acupuncture points exist. Acupuncture remains controversial among Western medical doctors and scientists. Creating case studies that use proper scientific controls is difficult because of the invasive nature of acupuncture – a clinical study involves a placebo (sham product) compared to the targeted treatment. It is very hard to devise a sham acupuncture control that one can compare to proper acupuncture.

Click here to read about acupuncture in more detail.

“Acupuncture for functional recovery after stroke: a systematic review of sham-controlled randomized clinical trials”
Jae Cheol Kong, Myeong Soo Lee, Byung-Cheul Shin, Yung-Sun Song, Edzard Ernst
Published online ahead of print September 27, 2010
CMAJ 10.1503/cmaj.091113

Written by Christian Nordqvist Written by Sy Kraft (B.A.)